How to Turn Old and Tired into Hip and Cool …

This week, I'm going to change things up here at The Writer's Life and focus on some of the most ingenious and effective advertisements from the past 10 years or so featured in the book The Idea Writers by Teressa Iezzi. I'll end the week with a story about advertising great David Ogilvy.

If you're a freelance copywriter, you'll want to pay close attention because although the advertisements I'll be focusing on aren't traditional sales letters, they do feature Big Ideas that capture attention and make an emotional connection with consumers — the basis for all great ads.

Let's get started …

In early 2010, copywriter Eric Kallman and art director Craig Allen from Wieden + Kennedy Portland were working on a marketing campaign that faced two significant challenges:

  • Take a product that had an almost grandfatherly image to it (the word "old" was even in its name) and make it hip and cool.
  • Appeal to their primary target market: women, who generally purchased the product for men (yet they needed to do this without alienating the men).

The new ad for Old Spice began with a simple greeting from former NFL star Isaiah Mustafa: "Hello Ladies" followed by …

"Look at your man, now look back at me. Now back at your man; back at me."

"Sadly he isn’t me. But if he stopped using ladies-scented body wash and switched to Old Spice, he could smell like me."

This campaign featured a whole new way for companies to “speak” to their audience. Instead of having the main character talk directly to the camera, they had Mustafa talk directly to the viewer — specifically the women watching.

Plus, they decided to show on the screen exactly what the dialog was saying. For example, when Mustafa talks about being in a boat or riding a horse he's actually in a boat or riding a horse. They also decided to make the commercial one long continuous shot.

They went even further and created a new way to enter the cultural discussion.

On July 13, 2010, the Old Spice man began to respond directly to comments made about the spot on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Reddit.

They created 200 videos of the Old Spice man in his bathroom in his towel responding directly to consumers.

They replied to regular social media users, as well as celebrities such as Ashton Kutcher, Alyssa Milano, and Biz Stone on Twitter.

Thanks to the web spots and commercials, it’s impossible to think of Old Spice the same way. The ad campaign was responsible for 1.4 billion media impressions, a 107% increase in sales, 40 million hits on YouTube within the first seven days, and numerous parodies. Oprah and People magazine commented on how much they loved all the ads.

Do you remember those Old Spice ads? Have you seen the new ones with Terry Crews? (You can check them out here. ) If you’d like to share your ideas about the Old Spice ads, please post your comments here.

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Published: February 4, 2013

4 Responses to “How to Turn Old and Tired into Hip and Cool...”

  1. Hey John, thanks for the great information.

    I must be old school.

    To me, billions of impressions and millions of Youtube hits can't be taken to the bank.

    Now 107% sales increase is proof of a 'good' ad.

    I would rather have an ad with no impressions and no Youtube viewers BUT 100% sales increase than 1.4Billion impressions, 40M YouTube hits and no sales increase.

    Although creative, the Old Spice ads worked because they SOLD PRODUCT. Most 'creative' ads don't sell doodle. And most creative ads have no way to measure their effectiveness ie sales.

    Your thoughts? Mark

    Guest (Mark Mehling)February 4, 2013 at 3:21 pm

  2. I like ethe fresh updated feel of the Old Spice ads. It has triggered some ideas for a Xmas campaign for the brand. Is there some one I can send the idea too?

    Guest (Thelma Taylor)February 4, 2013 at 6:57 pm


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